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Amelia Islander

Service Above Self

Feb 05, 2016 11:34AM
In 1905, in Chicago, Illinois, an attorney named Paul P. Harris wanted to create a professional group with the same friendly spirit he felt in the small towns of his youth. He gathered together three friends, Gustavus Loehr, Silvester Schiele, and Hiram Shorey, for a meeting at Loehr’s office in Room 711 of the Unity Building in downtown Chicago. Thus began the first Rotary club meeting. Originally, the group was meant to be a way that businessmen could connect with each other and share their resources, and they decided to call the new club “Rotary” after the practice of rotating meeting locations. As Rotary grew, members pooled their resources and used their talents to serve their communities. The organization’s dedication to this ideal is best expressed in its motto: “Service Above Self.” Within five years, clubs had formed across the country, from San Francisco to New York. In August 1910, Rotarians held their first convention in Chicago. The sixteen clubs that existed at that time united to form the National Association of Rotary Clubs. In 1912, the name changed to International Association of Rotary Clubs to reflect the addition of clubs in other countries. The name Rotary International was adopted in 1922 and by July 1925, Rotary had grown to more than 2,000 clubs and an estimated 108,000 members on six continents. Rotary’s reputation attracted presidents, prime ministers, and a host of other luminaries to its ranks, among them author Thomas Mann, diplomat Carlos P. Romulo, and composer Jean Sibelius. Today, Rotary has 1.2 million members worldwide. Amelia Island is home to two Rotary Clubs: Rotary Club of Fernandina Beach and Rotary Club of Amelia Island Sunrise. The former has been in existence for ninety years; the Sunrise club was born of the original club. “Our club grew to nearly one hundred members,” says John Boylan, president of the Rotary Club of Fernandina Beach. “We sponsored the new group and encouraged them to expand. As a result, we have two strong groups on the island.” Rotary, the largest service organization in the world, strives to “do good in the world,” according to Cindy Jackson, president of the Sunrise club. But part of that approach begins with doing good in the neighborhood. “Rotary connects people and opens doors,” says Jackson. “Many of our members are on the boards of local non-profits. In this way, our group is made aware of the needs of the community and can perform much-needed community service projects, in addition to national and international endeavors.” One of the most important and groundbreaking projects was Rotary’s commitment to eradicate polio throughout the world. “Since 1985, Rotary members have helped immunize more than 2.5 billion children against polio,” states Boylan. “Today, all but two countries are free of polio, those being Pakistan and Afghanistan. Africa is completely polio-free.” Another project supported by local Rotary groups is the Shelter Box program. “Our group has funded twenty-three Shelter Boxes, which is a large box delivered to places around the world where disasters have occurred,” says Boylan. “Each box provides food, water, bedding, clothing, and the like, which will sustain ten people for two weeks. Each box costs $1,000. We have funded boxes nationally and internationally, for people who are victims of disasters like the Indian Ocean tsunami and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.”

[heading style="subheader"]The Rotary Club of Fernandina Beach[/heading] The Rotary Club of Fernandina Beach meets every Wednesday at noon at the Florida House Inn. The club was founded ninety years ago to serve the Fernandina Beach-Amelia Island area. Its members are local business and community leaders from a variety of professions, offering members the opportunity to be involved in local and international service. Since it was chartered in 1926, the club has dedicated itself to numerous projects, including raising more than $130,000 for the Rotary Foundation’s End Polio Now program; distributing more than $300,000 in college scholarships to area high school graduates; working with the Rotary Youth Exchange Program to host students from other countries so that they can live and study in the Fernandina Beach area; and sponsoring local students who wish to study overseas, all to promote world peace and understanding.  “Our fifty-six members are a diverse group,” says Boylan. “We do some of our community projects on our own, and partner with other Rotary clubs and non-profits, too.” Just a few of the recipients of our club’s donations include Nassau County Humane Society, the Council on Aging, Take Stock in Children, and many more.” Since 1966, the Rotary Club of Fernandina Beach has sponsored the Fernandina Beach Interactive Club of Fernandina Beach High School. “The students concentrate on school and community projects,” says Boylan. “These include a Kids Carnival in Central Park. The Interact Club has 50 to 100 members, and is one of the oldest of the school’s clubs.” Boylan goes on to note that encouraging youth to participate in service projects makes them more compassionate adults. “We also provide financial support to Fernandina Beach Boy Scout Troop 89, and deliver over eight hundred dictionaries to every third grader in Nassau County. We’re hoping that our future will include an endowment program for our College Scholarship program. While we work on our current service projects, we are always looking toward future projects.” Shannon Brown is an Assistant Area Governor, serving five area clubs. Her assignment lasts three years, and the culmination of her term will be when she serves as Area Governor in her third year and assists the District Governor, who serves all of Northeast Florida. “What I have gained from Rotary is a network of business professionals and friends, but even more, an opportunity to be part of a group of folks who want to do good in the world by working together, setting aside politics, religion, and other issues that sometimes divide people,” says Brown. “The youth programs drew me to Rotary because my children befitted from them before I was ever a Rotarian. I wanted to be a part of an organization that cared about kids here and abroad. Rotary touches our local youth throughout their school years and beyond, and we hope it encourages them to give back in the future.” Each year, the Fernandina Beach Rotary Club sponsors the Harlem Ambassadors for a family-friendly basketball game held at the Fernandina Beach High School gymnasium. The Ambassadors take on the Nassau Nets to raise money for the club’s Dollars for Scholars program. “This scholarship program benefits all four high schools in Nassau County,” says Brown. “We have raised over $335,000 in the past twenty years. This is a very important fundraiser that allows high school seniors to continue their education.” The event will be held on February 26 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students. They are available at VyStar Credit Union, 1900 South 14th Street, or by calling (904) 908-2463.

[heading style="subheader"]The Rotary Club of Amelia Island Sunrise[/heading] The Rotary Club of Amelia Island Sunrise was founded in November 2007 with thirty-two chartering members. It was sponsored by the Rotary Club of Fernandina Beach. With thirty-five members at present, the club meets at 7:30 a.m. on Friday mornings at the Fernandina Beach Golf Club, hence the name “Sunrise.” Some of the non-profit organizations the Sunrise group has supported are Empty Bowls, Healthy Start, Amelia Community Theatre, Arts Alive Nassau, Wolfson Children’s Hospital, Micah’s Place, Barnabas, Hope House, Amelia Island Museum of History, and many more. In addition, Sunrise holds numerous field trips and social events in order for their members to get to know each other better. “We had a progressive dinner at Christmas, and in February we plan to tour a submarine at Kings Bay,” says Jackson. “We also have the opportunity to attend the international conferences, where we meet Rotarians from all over the world. Everywhere we go, we see signs of Rotary and the good they do.” Art and Theresa Schuster have been involved in Rotary for many years. They are members of the Sunrise club, where Art holds a board position as Foundation Chairman, and Theresa works as Club Administrator. Both are past presidents of other clubs, and also worked on the district level. “I got involved in Rotary twenty years ago when I was living in Georgia,” says Art. “I wanted to contribute to the community; that was important to me. But I also wanted to be part of solving the world’s issues. By attending worldwide conferences, meeting and connecting with people internationally, that is how we can bring about a sense of peace to the world.” “I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself,” says Theresa. “As one person, I can only do so much. But as a group we can do monumental things, like the eradication of polio.” Theresa also worked on a special Rotary project when she was a member of the Orange Park Sunrise club called “Honor Air.” “We took World War II veterans to Washington, D.C. to see their memorials. It was very emotional, and the interaction with these vets was something I will always cherish.” The Amelia Island International Wine and Food Tasting has been the major fundraising activity in the club for the past three years. “This year’s event, our fourth annual, will be held on March 5 at the Coastal Aviation Hangar at the Fernandina Beach Municipal Airport,” says Jackson. “Over the past three years, this event has benefitted Wolfson Children’s Hospital and Arts Alive of Nassau County. In total, the club has raised and donated over $100,000, receiving grants from the Rotary District to supplement the club’s contributions. Our goal this year is to the help the Friends of the Fernandina Beach Library build their new tech center.” The fourth annual Wine and Food Tasting features wines provided by Wine by Steve, and donations from local restaurants. Crescendo Amelia is providing the music, and “Throwback to the 1940s” is the theme. Tickets are $125 per person for the VIP event beginning at 5:30 pm, or $65 for the Premier Event beginning at 7 pm. Tickets can be purchased on the Sunrise website at

Rotary International’s purpose is to bring together business and professional leaders in order to provide humanitarian services, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations, and to advance goodwill and peace around the world. There are 34,282 member clubs worldwide and 1.2 million individuals called Rotarians have joined these clubs. Approximately 100 Rotarians call Amelia Island their home, and new members are always welcomed and encouraged. “It is the duty of all Rotarians,” as stated in their Manual of Procedure, “to be active as individuals in as many legally constituted groups and organizations as possible to promote, not only in words but through exemplary dedication, awareness of the dignity of all people, and the respect of the consequent human rights of the individual.” “Rotary is a diverse group, yes,” says Jackson. “But we are like-minded in our desire to make the world a better place.” For more information about Rotary International, visit